Friday, September 22, 2006

Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap (1980)

Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap (Pedro Almodovar, 1980)
Spanish Title: Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón

We are first introduced to Pepi (Carmen Maura) dandily placing Superman stickers in her sticker book. She grows marijuana plants on her apartment, attracting stern policeman (Felix Rotaeta) to conduct an investigation through his parallel apartment, and later on an arrest. Pepi resists arrest and instead invites the policeman to just have sex with her. Again, she resists her offer and in turn, loses her virginity through rape. She plots revenge and hires the punk band of Bom (Olvido Gara), a liberated lesbian singer, to beat up the policeman. They do beat up someone, but it turns out to be the policeman's twin brother, who due to the amount of harassment befalling him because of his resemblance to the unlikeable policeman, moves to the Canary Island. Undaunted, Pepi befriends Luci (Eva Siva), unsatisfied wife of the policeman, and turns her into a masochistic sex-crazed woman.

At first glance, much of Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap doesn't make sense. The city of Madrid is turned into a punk paradise with transsexuals, weirdos, and freaks roaming around in liberated abandon. Bom's band, while walking towards the victim of their cruel beating, insists that they sing so as to not arouse suspicion. In a normal world, a crew of weirdly-dressed individuals belting out opera choruses would instantly arouse suspicion but in Almodovar's world, such is completely normal. Almodovar's world doesn't require notions of common sense or societal norms. There is nothing permanent. Gender preferences, fetishes, religion, logic change in a wink of an eye.

Almodovar will continue this style of filmmaking throughout his career. Absurdist scenarios and characters deriving decisions based on their Freudian impulses would inhabit Almodovar's films, even his later, more tamer ones. In Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap, Almodovar is nursing the world in its infantile stage, which is probably the reason why much of it looks amateurish, crude, and in a way, unrestrained. The film comes off as merely a film that is delighted in eliciting shock reactions based on its irreverence to popular notions of propriety, instead of being something deeper or more thought-out. Pepe, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap feels more like a John Waters film instead of a Pedro Almodovar one. Sure, it's Almodovar's first legitimate feature film, and it features Almodovar actor Maura (who would later feature in many of the director's films), but despite its auteur theorist-satisfying themes, it falls short in depth and even freedom and control, which is what primarily differentiates Almodovar's vision from Water's experimentations to the limitations of bad taste.

Pepe, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap would interest primarily those who are curious as to how Almodovar enriched his vision. It's a very brave first feature and it's actually very hilarious. Almodovar throws in a lot of surprises which includes a penis-measuring contest, a love-at-first-urination scene, a humorous dialogue between a bearded wife and her closet homosexual husband, and many more features that seem to come out of thin air --- especially since the plot seems to steer into so many directions, it's almost impossible to follow what Almodovar is really trying to say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where did you find this movie in the Philippines? If you have a copy and it's for sale, I'd like to buy it along w/ other Almodovar films and foreign films.